Coachella, Instagram, and the Fear of Missing Out

Digital Dilemma

COACHELLA AND SOCIAL MEDIA

This blog post idea was inspired by my news feed this week on Instagram. In case you don’t already know, the most popular music festival (Coachella) has just started again this year! And if you’re on Instagram and you have photos of yourself at Coachella, basically everyone 13 to 35 wants to be you. It’s the most exciting and most “Instagramable” event that someone could attend. AND it takes tons of money to be able to be able to go. 

This weekend, my entire news feed is filled with all of my favorite content creators at Coachella sharing their stories and most beautiful Instagram photos. In just a few minutes of being online, I’m able to see all of the highlights of the performances and see the incredible events and parties that are happening. Almost any popular celebrity or creator is in the desert right now – dressed in the most fashionable festival clothing while listening to Beyoncé and sipping on something delicious. So of course, the social media envy begins. While others are enjoying this amazing experience, I’m working on a school project and going through waves of “FOMO.”  

SOCIAL MEDIA ENVY & ME 

Of course, we all have our own amazing experiences and just because someone else is celebrating something, my rational mind knows that it doesn’t take away from our own celebrations or accomplishments. But I’ve noticed something over the past few years that happens when this fear of missing out and social media envy creeps up into my life again. I feel as if I’m suddenly not doing enough, and I beat myself up for no reason at all. 

This past week I won the Distinguished Student Award, which only one person per major receives. It was one of the proudest moments of my life because I had to do tons of work to get that accomplishment. Not only that, but I survived the dreaded Senior Oral Defense, which determines whether or not you graduate. AND, I presented the smoke-free policy to the President’s Cabinet at Flagler College which I’ve been working on for months. Each one of those is something to be proud of, and something to celebrate. But even though I’m happy for a short period of time, within 20 minutes my mind instantly thinks … “Well, I could try harder. I could take on another cool project. I could book another photoshoot. I could edit my Youtube video during my bits of free time. I could go out tonight with friends. I could go visit friends. I should be doing something amazing right now besides work. I could buy a festival ticket for this summer.” I actually beat myself up over not having enough fun and not having something more interesting to post online. 

This is the whole reason why I created this blog, to discuss issues with social media and how it affects us. People on social media have hundreds, if not thousands of friends or followers… which means that at any given point, someone is always having the best day of their life and posting about it. If we don’t have anything exciting happening that day, we compare ourselves to a perfect photo of someone at a music festival. 

SOCIAL COMPARISON THEORY

Before social media, people would compare their lives to others, it’s called social comparison theory. It’s the idea that people compare their social and personal growth and their “image” to others which they perceive as doing better or worse. But now, we have the ability to see in just seconds what is going on with each one of our friends and even celebrities. So we end up ALWAYS perceiving ourselves as doing worse! It reminds me of something that I learned from The Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn (who by the way have awesome blog posts and podcasts). They always say that no amount of money, no amount of accomplishments, no amount of awards, no amount of clothes, and no amount of lavish vacations will ever be enough to make us happy. 

SO HOW DO WE BECOME HAPPIER WITHOUT DISMISSING SOCIAL MEDIA? 

The best way to be happy is to not look for happiness in the wrong places. To stop thinking that if we had the perfect apartment that people envied, the perfect social media feed, or the perfect wardrobe then we would be fulfilled. The way to eliminate this feeling of having to outperform our peers and have a perfect life is by living intentionally. So if we feel as if we’re getting frustrated with social media at that time, we log off and stop looking at it.

Next, instead of thinking “I should be doing ____ this right now.” Ask yourself: “What could I do to add value to this moment?” And by adding value, that doesn’t mean being more productive! Adding value means making this moment the best it could be. For me, I asked myself how I could add value to my morning, so I decided to write a blog post. Writing about what’s on my mind is what makes me feel good and happy. Instead of wasting your time in a bubble of social comparison, think how you could add value to your life and make yourself feel fulfilled. Maybe it’s by spending that time with family or engaging in a conversation with someone new instead of scrolling through your phone, or maybe it’s by calling a friend or working on a painting. Social comparison is always going to be there, whether we want it to be or not. But we can make a conscious decision to not feed into those thoughts. Instead, find a way to add value to our day and be happier without flying across the country and go to Coachella!

To learn more from The Minimalist, check out their blog! They’re incredibly helpful.

Are you familiar with this feeling when you’re on social media? What is your advice for dealing with social media envy or social comparison theory? Let me know below!

Photo by Kenny Knight @kryptoknight.

Double Lives: Instagram vs. Reality

Digital Dilemma

Like if you find yourself comparing your life to online friends!

I’ll admit it! When I scroll through my online newsfeed and see what all my friends are doing, I’m instantly down. It doesn’t matter if I had the most fantastic day in years, within the first thirty seconds of being online I can see that someone is having an even better time than I am… and they’re wearing a cuter outfit.

Plus they have some exciting news to announce about how they just got offered a job, are going on a lavish vacation, are buying a puppy… or whatever it is. I see people’s highlights from their life and think “my life isn’t that exciting,” “I can’t afford to buy that,” “I never get to travel that often.” This way of thinking is so prominent now, thanks to social media. We all post our picture-perfect moments, while our peers scroll through and become envious of us, and we become envious of them.

I recently read an article online by Maureen Callahan about this topic called “Our Double Lives: Dark Realities Behind ‘Perfect’ Online Profiles.” The article discusses how this phenomenon is known as social comparison theory and it means that we measure our successes and failures in comparison with other people. The article shows many examples of people who appear to have a wonderful life on social media, but in reality, have a very sad story behind closed doors.

One example Callahan mentions was a 19-year-old named Madison Holleran who was a very popular student at an Ivy League school, and a star athlete. The image that she maintained online was incredibly happy, with pictures of her beaming smile surrounded by friends. But when her mom said, “Madison, you look so happy at this party,” she responded, “Mom, it’s just a picture.” Then on January 14, 2014, Madison posted a gorgeous photo of the city with trees strung up with lights. Just an hour after her post, Madison leaped to her death from the top of a parking garage. Her family kept her Instagram account to remind teenagers that the life someone has online doesn’t always resemble the one that they actually live. What we post on social media are only the highlights of our lives. The most beautiful moments that we love so much, we want to share them with the world.

It’s important to remember this when scrolling through someone’s feed and beginning to feel that envy of their life. But what we are seeing isn’t reality. You don’t see pictures of them struggling through hardships… you see them with a cocktail in their hand while they’re sitting on a beach in Hawaii. Now, people are becoming more and more aware that the life people live online is filtered and edited. But what we don’t talk about as often is how it affects us emotionally as the viewers AND as the person who is posting. How the constant comparing ourselves to people on a timeline causes feelings of loneliness, depression, and a low self-esteem. Simultaneously, there is an overwhelming pressure to keep up with our peers on social media by capturing photos that meet the exceptions of friends online.

Callahan also mentions that another woman online has been putting herself in thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt trying to maintain her image. She buys new clothes for photographs and spends money on random props for photos. She even has a side of her apartment that she keeps looking perfect and clean just for photos.

The point is that we are driving ourselves crazy with social media by trying to create a persona that isn’t real and by analyzing the people we follow. It reminds me of the first episode of Black Mirror where the main character is constantly trying to create a perfect life online but is making herself miserable by trying to impress other people. By the end of the show, the pressures of impressing other people ruined her life. I think that at some point we’re going to have to find a way to be on social media while dropping our double lives and being true to ourselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if the way that we present ourselves on social media didn’t change, that eventually, an anti-social media movement may emerge.

What are your thoughts? How do you compare yourself to others online? Is there anything that you do to lead a double life? Or do you have ideas on how we can change? Comment below and tell me your thoughts!

Read Callahan’s article here.

Photo by: Kendid Visuals.

How To Have An Instagram Detox

Digital Dilemma
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Why Should I Have an Instagram Detox?

If you’re on Instagram and have been for several years, then you’re probably no stranger to the impacts that it has on mental health. Many people often say that they spend too much time on the app, compare themselves and their looks to others online, compare their lives to the seemingly perfect “content creators,” analyze the number of likes they receive, spend hours perfecting their profile, etc. I hear from countless peers that they spend their time obsessing over their Instagram to the point that they find themselves unhappy and exhausted. Who knew that spending the majority of one’s free time trying to look perfect, happy, and envied by others ACTUALLY ends up making us feel unhappy and drained?! This feeling among teenagers and twenty-somethings is what sparked what is now known as the “Instagram Detox.” This detox requires people to either temporarily delete their app or their account and avoid the platform for a number of days.

The detox is a way to break the hold that the app has over our emotional health and become less dependent and consumed with social media in the long run. It’s become famous among celebrities and young adults worldwide. Even Kendall Jenner famously took an Instagram Detox two years ago when she felt that Instagram was consuming all of her free time.

Personally, I’ve noticed that after having an Instagram binge, my mind becomes exhausted with the app and the effects that it has on my emotional health. I end up going through a period of a week or two when I can hardly make myself open Instagram. Every time I open it I instantly feel disconnected and unhappy. It’s almost as if my mind is subconsciously forcing a detox. I’ve found that best thing to do is to listen to what your mind is telling you and take a break. Whenever I take an Instagram detox, I end up putting down the phone and becoming much more reflective about my mental and emotional health, life goals, relationships, etc.

This happened to me very recently, which sparked me to write this post. After having another Instagram Detox I was actually able to become happier and rediscover myself outside of the world of digital media. After noticing that my brain needed a detox, I went all-in and decided to devote a week to self-help and growth… Instagram-free. If you’re interested in taking your own social media detox, here is how I helped myself through the week and got the most out of it:

Step One: Reflect

Admit that you have a social media addiction and need to take a detox. Listen to what your mind is trying to tell you. If you feel discontented and overwhelmed with your life online, take a break! Don’t push that feeling away or you’ll end up feeling worse. Think about why it is that you need a break, and what you’re looking to get from a week without social media.

Step Two: Commit

Now that you realize that you need a detox, do something about the app! Remove the app, delete the account, or move the app in your phone. If you’re too nervous to temporarily delete the account, then delete the app and re-download it later. Or, you can move the app’s placement on your phone to the back page. Moving or deleting the app on your phone will remind you to not go on it.

Step Three: Read a self-help book

If you’re taking a break from Instagram, then there’s obviously a need for it. Whether it’s the amount of time you spend on it or some other reason. There is a problem with your relationship with social media, and you need to regain control over yourself and the hold that social media has on you. Simply removing the app won’t fix the problem. In order to get the most out of your detox, you have to become more aware of your habits and focus on improving. The best way to do this is to learn from the experts who have transformed their lives through simple self-help strategies and habits. It will benefit your mental and emotional health, help you become happier and inspired, and maybe help you get to the route of your dependence on social media.

Step Four: Listen to Ted Talks

Once you’re on an Instagram detox, don’t waste that time laying in bed and binge-watching Netflix. Otherwise, it’s replacing one bad habit with another. Instead, spend that time learning something new. Watch Ted Talks about topics that you normally wouldn’t pay any attention to. Instead of binge-watching The Office, I ended up learning about polar exploration, the 2017 election hack, and the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi. Very random, I know… but I learned something new!

Step Five: Start a new hobby

The best way to distract yourself from throwing yourself back into the world of social media is to learn a new hobby. It’s not only a distraction, but it gives you another outlet to express and entertain yourself. Sometimes, we spend so much time expressing ourselves online, that once we’re disconnected from technology we feel lost. It’s important to have hobbies that don’t involve staring at your phone.

Step Six: Call your friends

Fun fact: Back before we all became obsessed with our online personas, we actually went on social media to connect and talk with people!! Sadly, social media became a way to have relationships without ever actually speaking to people. Use your social media free time to call up old friends and relatives that you haven’t talked to in a while and actually connect with people offline.

Step Seven: Focus on your physical health

Since you’re taking this time to have digital detox and focus on your mental health, it only makes sense to focus on your physical health too. Besides, the first thing that you’ll notice once you ditch the digital media for a week is that you suddenly have a lot of extra time on your hands… time that would be better spent at the gym getting in shape for spring break. (;

Step Eight: Clean up your space

If I ever want to make myself feel better and less anxious, oddly enough I just have to clean my room. Cleaning makes me feel like I’m organized, relaxed, and more prepared for whatever I have going on. Recently, I’ve even found articles about how cleaning not only makes people feel better mentally but also is linked to better physical health and a longer lifespan!

Step Nine: Journal

When I started my Instagram detox, I noticed that I had a lot of time on my hands in between classes. I usually spend that time sitting on my phone and scrolling through a timeline, so I had to find something to do during those small moments. I came across a list of journal prompts online and decided that I would use that time to journal a new prompt every day. Once I started regular journaling, I felt so much better. It kept me engaged and got me thinking about things that I wouldn’t normally think about. I felt content and satisfied after a short break of journaling instead of staring at my phone and turning into a zombie. It gave me mental clarity and peace of mind that scrolling just doesn’t give me.

Step Ten: Set limits

When your detox has ended and it’s time to get back on social media, use it sparingly. Make a conscious effort to not check your phone and spend time engaging with the world around you instead of scrolling through your news feeds. You don’t have to like someone’s picture of them drinking a latte the second it’s posted! It can wait. You can even download apps like Checky and Moment to make sure that you’re not checking your phone too many times a day and not spending an excessive amount of time on apps like Instagram.

Photo by Allen Fajardo @alewafeni

Like Me: The Pressure for Likes on Social Media

Digital Dilemma

My Story

Being one of many female Instagram addicts, it didn’t take long before I felt the pressure to get likes. Although social media has opened up a wonderful world of opportunity for us, it also creates problems when used to determine our self-worth. I discovered Instagram for the first time in 2013, right after I graduated high school. I remember being so excited and intrigued by the app right away. I loved the ease of posting a photo and how quickly you could be discovered by new people. And I loved how everyone used it to post their most beautiful pictures. It seemed like something special. So I dove in head first and became another girl that documents every moment of their life online as if to prove they existed.

What should have been a tool to express myself to friends and family or network with new people, was instead something that I had used to measure my self-worth for years. I posted every day, sometimes multiple times in a day, and then judged myself based on how many people “liked” it. Being young, vulnerable, and self-conscious I looked for attention from people on the internet instead of focusing on my real relationships.

Fast forward to today, I’m not only a known “Instagram Addict” by friends and family, but I also took to become the “Instagram Model” type. Then, with my interest in social media and writing, I even decided to major in Strategic Communication which focuses mostly on digital media. I’ve spent years studying media in school, and would then come home to participate in it online. I became an ambassador for six different brands and spent every weekend collaborating with photographers with a shared goal of creating content for Instagram. Simply put, it ended up becoming my entire life. It determined my major, my hobbies, and my relationships over the past five years. Initially, all of the added involvement in Instagram or other social media platforms made the pressure for likes and acceptance even more important. I spent way too much time and energy focusing on how many people liked my pictures to determine if I was worthy. But now, after having a long relationship with the platform and going through the many ups and downs, I’ve finally realized how it has impacted me. And being a young girl in this new digital age, I had to reach a point where I was comfortable enough with myself and not search for affirmation and acceptance online.

I wish I could say that I was the only person that went through this pressure for likes on the internet. Young people naturally feel pressure to fit in and be well-liked by their peers and classmates, but social media intensifies that. It puts a button at the bottom of a photo and shows you exactly how many people are interested in you and what you’re doing. The less likes someone gets, the worse they feel about themselves. The more likes a person gets, the better and more confident they about themselves… at least for a little while. But it doesn’t take long before those 20, or 30, or 50, or 100 likes doesn’t do it anymore.

However, I realized that it wasn’t Instagram that was the problem. Trust me, I would never blame my beloved Instagram for causing my insecurities. Rather, it was my understanding of it. I, like many others, am still new to the internet. As a society, we don’t fully understand the impact that social media has on us yet. But that’s not the technology’s fault, it’s our own. We have to be careful about how we engage on the internet by making sure that we use it as a tool to help us, not to monitor the number of likes or our popularity online.

So how do we get control of social media impacts on mental health and self-worth?

Step one:

First, have a social media detox. Determine the social media platforms that have a negative effect on your mental health and limit your time or temporarily delete it. Spend that time without social media to focus on yourself and be free from the pressures of social media. I recently watched a YouTube video of a young woman that talked about the pressures she felt from Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube. She said that she likes to delete the apps on her phone for two days every week and take a break. It’s a good way to make sure that you’re not completely immersed in the online world and working on yourself as a person, not just on an online persona and the likes or followers count.

Step two:

Become conscious of how you engage with social media. Do you spend your time sitting on your phone waiting to see how many people liked your photo or how many comments you got? Do you creep on people you’re jealous of and find yourself comparing you to them? Do you monitor your followers and friends? Social media was not created for this purpose. It was created as a way to share content with people online and connect with people in a new and exciting way, not to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Step three:

Use social media to help you grow as a person. Use it as a way to find new people that inspire you and make you happy. Use it to meet new people and collaborate with them. Use it to find new locations, events, or actives that you’re interested in. Just use social media to benefit you.

Step four:

Create content that makes you happy, not to impress other people. It’s a spot to express yourself. Let’s use my blog as an example. I’m well aware that probably nobody will read this aside from my grandma, boyfriend, mom, and possibly my aunt (she’s a blogger too, hi Jill). I’ve never created something like this before and I don’t expect a lot of people to notice it or read the content. But I’m completely ok with that. I’m doing this so that I can write about the topics that I care about and create something that I’m proud of.

Step five:

Focus on accepting yourself by engaging in healthy behaviors. Instead of spending your downtime sitting on your phone use it to get back in shape, take your dog for a walk, do something artistic, or call a friend or family member. Those are the activities that are good for us and can benefit our physical and mental health so much more than scrolling through a newsfeed.

Photographer: Kenny Knight @kryptoknight.